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Students Laugh and Learn with Improv Group
 Onamia High School sophomores and juniors learned about themselves
and their community Nov. 29 through improvisational humor by the Theater of Public Policy.
 
The Mille Lacs Band and Onamia’s Indian Education Department helped bring the group to the Rolf Olsen Center for a two-hour session involving conversation and entertainment.
 
Students were engaged with the task of discussing issues in their lives and community with the members of the cast, who then performed improvisational skits based on the discussions.
 
In small groups, they responded to several questions:  “What’s most important to you about your community?” “What’s one thing you wish were different about your community?” “How do you think students get along?” “What are the strengths/needs of your community/school?” and “What could be done to help address those needs and make your vision real?”
 
Students listed positive aspects of the community like school spirit, the small-town atmosphere, and outdoor recreation opportunities. They also addressed more challenging topics like drugs and alcohol, bullying, and separation between cultural groups.
 
The event was made possible through funding from the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MNEEP). This initiative developed out of the Race Equity Promise to Act Plan between Central Lakes College, MNEEP and schools from around the Mille Lacs area. Funding from the Blandin Foundation and the Initiative Foundation made the Promise to Act Plan possible.
 
The Theater of Public Policy was formed in 2011 by Tane Danger and Brandon Boat. They have performed for dozens of organizations around the country.
 
Mille Lacs Band member Adrienne Benjamin met Tane Danger at a Bush Foundation event and thought his group may be able to shed light on issues around Mille Lacs. She introduced him to Onamia Community Education Director Cyndy Rudolph, Indian Education Coordinator Chris Clitso-Nayquonabe, and Niigaan Director Byron Ninham, who helped coordinate the event.

The group is scheduled to appear at Nay Ah Shing in January, and Adrienne hopes to bring them to Isle High School and the wider community in the future.
 
According to the Theater of Public Policy’s website: “Organizations hire T2P2 to use comedic interpretation to summarize themes, turn confusion into clarity and conclude meetings on a high note. These shows begin with policy makers and thought leaders discussing the hot issues of the day. Then, in real time, the cast re-imagines the debate through the spontaneity of unscripted theater, making policy fun.”